Sermon 2nd September 2018
Text: Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 – Traditions or stumbling blocks.
One of the first things that I have done in my 3 parishes that I have served in is spent some time learning the traditions of each congregation.
The reason I have done this is because of my understanding – this is your congregation and parish not mine.
And so I have wanted to serve you and the best way to do that is to find out what makes you who you are.
And usually that is the traditions you keep and hold as valuable.
That’s not to say that nothing will change but change has to come for the good of the congregation and parish and not so I can have my way.
One of the more difficult occasions was when I was called to serve the Frankston Parish and facilitate a joint worship with the Uniting Church and Lutheran Church.
I knew there would be differences in some of the theological understandings but my first objective was to make both churches feel that this was their service.
So I found out traditions that identified them and not their theological positions.
The Uniting Church liked to begin the service with the Minister being led in to a hymn with one of the children carrying the altar bible ahead of him.
So we did that and immediately the Uniting Church members identified with the service.
The Lutherans wanted to stand for the Gospel reading and sit for the hymns.
The Uniting wanted to sit for just about everything but stand for the hymns.
So we stood for the Gospel and the hymns.
They were traditions that looked rather minor to the onlooker but they identified who they were.
But sometimes traditions are challenged or even forced to change.
For example, when forming a parish there may needed to be some change.
Original Church times might conflict so there needs to be some compromise – one congregation may even feel it’s to their detriment.
The Church with the earlier time may need to forgo precious time catching up with the Pastor ..
One congregation has to accept that the Pastor may not live or have an office in their locality.
So there are some traditions that by necessity are needed to change for the greater good.
Congregations will always face challenges when change becomes a necessity and we try to hang to the way things have always been.
Congregations have a huge challenge in encouraging young families to regularly attend.
The budget is always a worrying challenge.
But sometimes we need to see past these and see the blessings that are there.
As a parish there are now 2 or more service times
As a parish you may increase your musical talents.
In my parish we now have a contemporary service every week, alternating at each venue.
We have a traditional service every week also.
We can now do more things because we have more people to work together with.
As a parish we have 3 bible studies.
As a parish we have a monthly youth program.
But to have these we needed to let go of some traditions and see each other as one church working together in 2 different locations – not US and THEM..
That’s holding on to human traditions.
In letting go of human traditions there is sometimes a sacrifice we have to make.
But the blessings that emerge outweigh the sacrifice and they create new and better traditions.
But it is just as easy to dismantle the blessings.
For Jesus it was a simple criticism about his disciples not washing their hands.
Jesus saw this as a threat to blocking the gospel by putting a human tradition in its way.
It wasn’t the action that was concerning to Jesus but what was in the heart that prompted that human tradition.
As he says:
'This people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; (Mark 7:6)
Sometimes it can be the little things that prevent the blessings from flowing from God.
The things that we say that don’t really reflect the unity that God has established in our parish as the body of Christ.
Words and actions that keep us as 2 bodies rather than one body working in 2 places.
Yes there may be some sacrifices by both congregations but the blessings that have come down from God will be amazing.
And they will continue to flourish while we keep putting God’s will ahead of our own human traditions.
Traditions are good.
They identify who we are.
But when they stop identifying us as the body of Christ and letting the love of God flow through us then they are no longer divine but purely human traditions that turns the Christian faith into a worthless religion that only looks after itself.
That’s not what we want see here in our congregations or on our LCA and for that we thank God from whom every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, has come from above, coming down to bless us.